Father Mark, Reflections

Resentment

Proper 19A Pentecost 15; Matthew 18:21-35; 9/13/20

Trivia question:  Do you know the bitterest substance on the face of the earth? Denatonium benzoate better known as Dentrol or Bitrex.    Denatonium benzoate in a solution of ten parts per million is unbearable to human taste buds.

The heart of people with long carried resentment becomes dark and the bitterness that spews from them is like tasting denatonium benzoate. 

Ten parts per million isn’t much of a ratio. 

It’s like .001 of a percent.  That’s all it takes for resentment to darken our life.  

Resentment is like putting a backpack on and carrying around 100 pounds of lead. 

Not only is the weight intolerably heavy, but the chemical contamination from lead poisons weakens the body and soul. Charles Dickens’ character, Scrooge, would be an example of one who is poisoned by resentment.  

Those whose hearts are unforgiving bring on their own agony and spreads that agony to others.  I am reminded of memories of working in a crisis mental health center of clients brought up by police who hadn’t bathed or changed clothes in over a month.  The stench would permeate the whole floor.   Resentment can carry the similar stench.

The king, after discovering his servant’s failure to show mercy to others after he himself received mercy from the king, reveals the perils of not forgiving.   It’s not that God is going to hold sentence over us for not forgiving.  No.

Spiritual law reveals that when we hold on to resentment and fail to forgive another, we are creating a state of hell for ourselves.  I don’t know if you’ve ever known anyone who has held resentments over an extended period of time.  They’re not much fun to be around. 

One of my favorite quotes that returns to my memory comes from St. Benedict:  Every day we begin again.   God has already forgotten our transgressions and so Benedict is urging us not to keep hanging on to them.   Resentment blocks us from living in the present moment. Learning from our faults is one thing.  Dragging them around is another. 

God does not withhold forgiveness like the hypocritical servant who showed no mercy or compassion to others.   Seventy time seven:   An infinite number. 

Seven and multiples of 7 for the Hebrew represent wholeness and a sense of being complete. 

Forgiving completes our soul, reuniting the lost pieces of ourselves that resentment scatters.  God is always available to relieve human suffering by entering our suffering with us—the way Jesus did it.   Jesus went to hell and back for us.  All we have to do is open the door when he knocks and the agony we carry will be removed from us, restoring us to our blessed Union with God.

Father Mark, Reflections

What HAM Radio Teaches Me About God

One of the joys I experience in life is discovering new things and their relatedness with God’s creation and how God works through creation.  Creation is a metaphor for God’s dynamic action in our lives.  

After passing my HAM exam I began seeing images of how the electromagnetic frequencies and wavelengths of radio waves are interrelated in all forms of sound communication.   The psalmist knew that when God “opened his mouth” and spoke, the frequency and wavelength emitted created life in some form. 

In the New Testament, Jesus would speak and that frequency or wavelength emitted from him would heal a sick person.  Depending on the context and spirit of our hearts, the words emitted from our mouths carry a certain wavelength and frequency to build up or to tear down.  

I was speaking with Pastor Bill Nobles of First UMC this week and we spoke of the message of Jesus that we preach.  Jesus, similar to a transmitter, sent out the Word in the Creator’s frequency and wavelength which was universally (and still is) available to the masses.  The message was received by some whose spiritual antennas were open to receive the message.  In a sense, our whole being is an antenna and receiver for the Spirit but we have to turn it on. 

As you cannot visually see electromagnetic radio waves, we cannot in the same way “see” Spirit.  But we can see what the Spirit does and feel what the Spirit does within us.

Then Pastor Bill and I took the conversation a step further, wondering if the message that we’re preaching is at the same frequency and on the same wavelength as Jesus?  We were silent for a while.  How can we offer the Word Christ preached and healed with at the same frequency and wavelength as he did (does)?  We spoke of the incredible responsibility of how important it is to get out of the way and make sure that it is Jesus speaking through us instead of ourselves.

But is not this the message for all the baptized?  Are not all of our mouths created for allowing the Word in all its vibration and wavelength to emanate from our soul center?  

The HAM radio reminds me of how important being “tuned” to the frequency and wavelength of God’s vibrating Word.  

Let us support each other in this most Holy task.  May the Spirit sound through each of us so that we may radiate the harmony of God.

May each of us experience God’s Peace vibrating through us,

Fr. Mark

Father Mark, Reflections

Another Mystery of Life

When in Big Bend last year, Kathy and I stopped at a wonderful rock shop in Terlingua. As we all are “taken aback” when we see things, the above stone caught my attention and my eyes were riveted upon it for some time. Initially, it was the layers of coloring that blended together as I pondered how the minerals were layered so mysteriously instead of conglomerated together in a colorless blob.

The second insight that came to me is can be summed up in the word, “time.” The stone was created layer upon layer over time. Each period of time was layered, colored, and uniquely blended together. There are three different layers of color between the two darker brown layers, one being much thinner than the previous one while there are six layers separating the two pinker layers. How did the differentiation in color and layer thickness happen? How long did it take to happen. I only had one geology course in college so the questions will remain a mystery.

Are not our lives like this beautiful stone. Our lives are layered as we grow from different life experiences. Some of those experiences are darker than others but the darker layers remain as a foundation for other layers of various colors and thicknesses. The stone reaffirms to me that there truly is a “Divine Order in the Universe.”

Each phase of our lives, God is building on the previous layers something entirely new, differing from the other layers, calling us into wholeness and the complete nature of who we are. God is always about the task of shaping us. There are no two stones exactly alike just like there are no two people exactly alike.

Take a few moments before your head hits the pillow this evening to recall all the layers of your life and how each part was used by God to form you into the person you are today. Each part or layer is important and fits in as a part of the whole. Each of us is multifaceted and rich in blessing adding color to and benefiting the world God gave us.

Let your colors show or in the words of Jesus: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Make no mistake about it. Jesus’ directive tell us that all of our lives matter.

De Colores (All the colors),

Fr. Mark

Father Mark, Reflections

Labor Day

I want you to take a moment to look at your hands. I want you to recall a few moments of what your hands have already done today. Most of what your hands have done was most likely done without your awareness. Our hands have become so skilled that they just “do it” without much thought at all.

What your hands have done has been generally a two way effort towards taking care of yourself and your neighbor. The hands have washed and dressed yourself, helped your children, hugged members of your family and prepared and assisted you in eating your breakfast. On other days we we work, our hands in conjunction with our minds create something to bless the world.

Hopefully you remembered to allow your hands to either come to rest or together to pray for a few moments. It is the heart that guides the mind to direct what the hands will do and will not do. The content within the heart is the driving force which moves the hands in the direction, intent and the quality of the work we do.

Notice your hands. Be still for a moment while looking at them and wondering where God will have you use them today. Gratitude will fill your being.

God has no hands but ours.

Remember. Give thanks. Be.

Fr. Mark

Father Mark, Reflections

Worthy

Worth describes something of value.   We value that on which we spend our time, energy and resources.  This is a stewardship practice but I want to take a different angle for a moment.

I often run across individuals that will confide in me that they feel unworthy in God’s eyes and in their own.   The world can bruise us up sometimes and if we’re not careful we can translate this experience and believe that the way we are treated determines our value.  Where we especially vulnerable to this sense of a lack of worth is in our weaknesses.   I ran into this again a month ago when I was studying for my HAM license.   The old “tapes” and memories came out when I was struggling to comprehend the math computation and memorization.   I finally lost my composure, got up from the chair, and walked outside, steaming. My anger emerged from my feelings of vulnerability.  All of this is to tell you how vulnerable I felt as I regressed to the memories of worthlessness as I struggled in math at a younger age.   After working through it all, I went back to studying.  And by the way, I passed the exam last Saturday. 

We all have places within ourselves where we can feel backed up against the wall—where the Sirens that drove Ulysses to the point of insanity, attack us.  We call them demons.  It doesn’t matter how much we understand what form in which they manifest.  What matters is that we know that from time to time we come face to face with them.  No one is exempt.  It’s a part of our humanity that we are faced with which voice we’re going to listen to:  the Voice of God or the voices of the demons and the source from which they came.  

Think about this:  Jacob in Genesis 32:10, quotes, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which you have showed to your servant….”   The word, “worthy” in its Hebrew understanding means, “small or insignificant.”  It is word of comparison such as between a peasant and a great king.   Jacob isn’t struggling with his sense of self-worth, he has just realized the greatness of God and how insignificant his desires and plans are in light of God and God’s action in history. 

When we realize God’s immanence in, around, and through us, we indeed feel overwhelmed, similar to that when we’re in the countryside and look up and see the trillions of stars decorating the carpet of the sky.  Being in awe might be a better word combined with wonder

When we realize that God is this close to us, which can be interrupted by the events of the world around us, we can feel God’s breath massaging us—in mind, body and spirit.   When we realize God’s immanent presence we already know that God hears our prayers and has already responded.   Worth is realized when we become conscious of the immanence of God’s Presence.   What’s more wondrous, is that when we realize our worth to God, we become both joyous and humble at the same time.  We don’t have to prove to anyone how cool we are.  We already know because we know where “cool” comes from. 

At times like this, when we’re under the COVID cloud, it seems the demons come more often.  So when those demons come around harassing you, tell them to shut up, and find your prayer place and be still and know….   God is already present waiting for us to show up.

Peace be with you,

Fr. Mark